Epic Level Artistry Tutorial by Eric Quigley!

Freelance Illustrator Eric Quigley offered to do an illustration tutorial for a very interesting monster, just in time for Halloween! Click on the images below to view full size.

Monster Tutorial by Eric Quigley

Process:

Please bear in mind that there are a number of ways to go about painting an image. This is by no means the “right” one (in fact it’s likely the “wrong” one), but it’s the process I took to create this image. Even though my work is all done digitally I still find that it’s best to maintain more or less defined stages and build up the final in much the way I would do a traditional painting. My process isn’t one that implements what you might think of as “tips and tricks”. There is no one super duper technique that will make you a better artist- you must hone your skill and develop your basic abilities before developing your more advanced abilities. Rid your mind of the idea that there is talent involved and understand that if you do this you WILL get better at it. Skills must be learned.

1. The sketch!

The amount of time I spend defining a drawing is normally determined by how complicated it is, and who the image is for. If it’s a personal piece sometimes I can leave the drawing a little looser. More complicated images require more defined drawings or they could take a long time. Ultimately it’s important to plan ahead and have a good idea of what you’re going to do before you begin making things even more difficult with values and again with colors later. Remember- work now is time saved later.

 

2. No more white!

Above the sketch layer I made a multiply layer in Photoshop and dropped in a solid mid-tone gray scale value (50% gray). Then I applied a dual brush to my current brush and a scatter dynamic to quickly throw some variation into my values. Remember, all of this is just the base and will be painted over in the later stages.

You might find that it’s helpful to ensure that you get rid of all of the white on the canvas almost immediately when you start dropping values. Everything in a painting is relative to what you already have down. That is to say that ever value/color you place will look “dark” or “light” depending on what’s beside or near it. The reason I drop in a mid-tone at the beginning is to try and keep myself from sticking to lighter values by comparing everything to the lightest value and assuming it’s darker when it’s not actually that dark (because you compared it to white). Make sense?

 

3. Opaque layers!

Now I start a new layer and begin to paint opaquely on top. The idea is to try and start with the opaque paint soon enough to paint over most of your sketch lines by the time things get too far along. The values are still really light, but with this in mind I can drop them lower as the painting progresses. I’ve also made sure to keep him all on his own layer specifically so I can play with the values and paint under him quickly. Later I’ll drop him into the background and paint it all as one, but not just yet.

 

4. Keep going!

I just continue to build in gray scale. I’m not so sure about it anymore, but I use to think of this as still the drawing stage. Right now the idea is to plan for color and plan your main light source and shapes. Remember when you’re painting that a lot of this will be painted over, but the more accurate you can be the closer to finished you’ll always be. I wasn’t very accurate here, but I find that before I drop color in I have a lot of time to play and pursue my more painterly desires. Also, I was planning on making some tears in his skin, or maybe veins for later on. While I did start to add these in this stage I painted over them again because it wasn’t time for that kind of thing yet. Stick with working out your three dimensional forms early on more so than worrying about your details.

You might also noticed this image is mirrored now. This is something I do a lot when I paint (I had done it several times before this even, but had saved it in the “normal” orientation out of just the chance that’s where it was when it was saved). Remember mirroring your canvas can help you to spot “mistakes” and see your own creation from a different point of view. I have hot-keyed the command in Photoshop so I can do it all the time, and I’d suggest it to anyone.

 

5. A bit more gray scale!

Here I just played with the values a bit more and rendered a few things out just a bit further. I’m preparing for color and I want as few places to look like the knee as possible (though the knee will stay like that into the color stage… oops). At this point I start using the dual brush dynamic to really throw some textures into the skin. While most of this will be painted over, what doesn’t will hopefully help to build depth later. This is one of the main ideas behind painting in stages.

 

6. Let there be color! 

Now the idea is to use the values and shapes beneath to add color to the image. For this whole image I used two color layers (because I haven’t dropped the background yet) over top of the black and white layers I just established. This is similar to adding values to your line drawing- make sure that you’re evenly blanketing the entire area before you start settling on colors. To do this properly with my two backgrounds I filled the background color layer with a green/blue and then went back in and added my color on top of the creature. Always start basic and get more defined as you go. Honestly this is the point I’m the weakest and any struggles anyone has colorizing images I can promise you I have as well. If you find color is not your best friend either you might want to try out Color and Light by James Gurney.

     

Here’s a close shot of an earlier stage of me painting opaquely after dropping in some colors.

 

 

 

7. Now the painting part!

Now that everything is established I can finally begin my rendering. At this point I have a solid foundation and I just begin to solidify what I have underneath and sort of “make it meet” with what I have in mind for texture and how I want the guy to look. I have dropped all of my layers and begin to paint on top of the whole painting as a whole. In a more complicated painting it’s wise to work around the canvas fairly evenly and then establish your focal point even further. At this point there is not a really clear direction for what I’m doing because I’m trying to hop around the canvas often and keep things fairly even, though I wouldn’t call this a complicated painting. I tried to take the scarring much the same way the rest of the painting was established- develop a base and then begin to render on top of it.

 8. Finish up!

I then go back and try to add some brighter highlights to where the shinier part of his “skin” are hit more directly by light, and add some back lighting to help separate him further from the background. A few touches here, a few touches there, and when you finally can’t take it anymore (or you start going backwards) it’s time to call it done. All in all this painting probably took about 4 or 5 hours to complete from start to finish.

Remember when working on paintings like this it’s wise to get up and take breaks often. I would always suggest to try and break down your painting into digestible sessions. You don’t want to be working for so long on something that you can’t begin to see if you’re improving upon it or not. I find it’s often wise to keep many save files handy and to check back on your previous file often to make sure you’re moving ahead and not backwards.

I hope you guys enjoyed this. I always enjoy the chance to go in and write about my process- normally I don’t get a chance to think all that hard on it. Try and make sure that you’re constantly evolving your work and work method to make your work as enjoyable and fast as you can. Thanks for checking this out and if you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at quigleyer(at)gmail(dot)com.

Epic Level Artistry: Eric Quigley

Happy Halloween, everyone! Today at Troll in the Corner we have a really special Epic Level Artistry with the illustrator Eric Quigley. Not only was Eric kind enough to take the time to be interviewed but he also offered to do a tutorial on how to draw a really amazing and creepy monster, just in time for Halloween! Maybe this creature will be the special fiend in your dungeon tonight. His art is stunning. Fantasy, sci-fi and horror, Eric is a talented individual who also has some great insight on illustration. Let’s see what he had to say!

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs
It always felt like when I was growing up that my life centered around what I was drawing. I remember specifically a good two or three years of dinosaurs after Jurassic Park came out, and probably another good year or so of developing my own slasher characters after seeing my first Halloween movie. My mother wouldn’t let me play Mortal Kombat, so I drew Mortal Kombat characters. The Godzilla movie re-make was horrible (I had hopes, I was a kid), so I drew Godzilla for a while to fix it in my weird little teenage mind. It got me through English, math, and social studies.

I’m not sure it was the best degree choice, but it seemed reasonable at the end of high school to pursue a degree in art. I applied and was accepted into VCU. I graduated in 2010 with a degree in communication arts. After that I worked in restaurants for a while, the whole time honing my skill and trying to get to the level of professionals I saw out there on the market. I’m still humbled by every single one of those guys, but as I got better I put out more portfolios and started seeing some jobs.

In January of 2010 I quit my current restaurant job (8-9 years of line cook experience combined) and have maintained a full work schedule since as a freelancer. Recently my projects include the Sticks digital card game by Simulated Culture, Tales from the Fallen Empire by Chapter 13 Press, and Hero Kids by Justin Halliday. Other clients include Inkwell Ideas, Alderac Entertainment Group, Dwimmermount (James Maliszewski), DwD Studios (BareBones Fantasy out the 29th) and various other small publishers and personal clients.

Do you find yourself more drawn to drawing locations or people? Do you have them fleshed out before you bring pencil to paper (to use an old idiom) or do the ideas and the image kind of grow side by side?
At this point I find most of my work is centered around figures, whether they be interacting in a complete scene or just as stand-alone character illustrations. I do get the chance to occasionally do some scenery work, and definitely enjoy the change of pace whenever possible.

When coming up with pieces for clients I generally do most of the thinking-out work through sketches. If I’m doing personal work things usually start less fleshed-out when I begin to ‘paint’ and I usually make more decisions on the fly. Usually how defined something in depends on a variety of factors such as what the client wants, how comfortable I am with the subject matter, and how long I have to finish a piece.

How much time would you say you spend in a week making art? How much time in a week would you say you spend gaming?
I don’t know if I could put a reasonable estimate in how much time I spend on art. It really does depend on how much professional work I have and if I have any excited ideas for my personal work. I try and shoot for the normal 8 hours a day/5 days a week, but then usually tack on night sessions and all-nighters because sometimes I need to get things done. If art were a polytheistic religion the top god would be called Deadline.

Gamin-wise I’m still a baby. I mean I do play video games, but I try and break up the time between sessions with those, and it‘s often-times city builders. Role play-wise I’m still very new and have only played a handful of sessions. I am trying to play more, but old Deadline comes knocking more often these days.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
My work is done almost entirely digitally now. Sometimes I’ll sketch something out on paper to remind myself I have a scanner, but I’ve gotten used to sitting at my computer to do all work-related stuff. I also like the ability to mirror my canvas whenever I feel the need (so I don’t stare at the same thing forever), and find that it’s really helpful to be able to work on it mirrored. When you hold your drawing to a mirror it does help you see mistakes, but then you can’t work on it mirrored. Traditional paint also brings with it the issue of drying time and just general medium fuss that digital leaves you free of. There just seem to be too many advantages of digital technology, and with lord Deadline around every corner….

Are there any trends, either genre-wise or technique-wise that you’re seeing in RPG/game art that you’re enjoying now? Is there anything you want to see more of or things you don’t like?
This old school revival is great for me. I never had a chance to experience the first pass on what is now called the OSR and probably would never have known what I was missing had I not started working around this time. I love the old school dungeon-crawler stuff, and really REALLY have a soft spot for the undead. I was giggling the whole time I was working on Dwimmermount- I really loved the idea of being able to visually show these tight and dangerous underground tunnels and rooms.

I also love the undead. Any and all. I like making some up, I like painting existing versions, I like liches, zombies, wights, skeletons, and anything else that shouldn’t be walking but does.

I’m not a personal fan of steam-punk. I never really have enjoyed the genre, though I do understand the lure. Maybe I need to do some steam punk illustrations?

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
I know this is sort of a stock answer, but my first fantasy art hero was Frank Frazetta. I remember being introduced to his art- that’s when I knew I wanted to learn how to paint. He was very good at creating drama using both imagery and good composition design, and I lov how juicy and loose some of his work is. Aside from him it’s guys like Keith Parkinson, James Gurney, Ralph Horsley, Raymond Swanland, Kekai Kotaki, Dave Rapoza, Jaime Jones, and the list could go forever.

What tools do you use to make art?
For my art I usually go with Photoshop CS6 and a Wacom Intuos 4 large graphics tablet. I used to use Corel Painter a lot, but find that it’s better to just do it all in one program, and Photoshop has the ability to do it all.

Are there any pieces you’re particularly proud of? A favourite character you managed to pin down or something really funny/touching/dramatic you captured?
The piece I hate the least is probably most recently the BareBones Fantasy RPG corebook cover for DwD studios. Before that I used this piece of the Executioner Majini from Resident Evil 5 as my ‘head piece’, but it’s so old now.

What would be a dream job/commission?
Either the Unabridged Illustrated Bestiary of the Undead OR Fully Illustrated Guide to Cinematic Hero Deaths: Out with a SPLAT.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
Eating, sleeping, and paying bills. In all seriousness I really don’t have time for much else yet. This kind of career is one that you have to stay on top of, at least until you’re more established than I currently am. Occasionally I’ll go out of town to the city to visit some friends, but most times it’s just the art and me. Well, and Deadline. My girlfriend is in medical school right now so I’m finally learning what all of those veteran artists warned me about: freelance is lonely. I can’t complain- it’s equally as fun.

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?
You just have to work, work, and then do more work. Look at the art that is being put into whatever genre you want to work in. That’s your target! Remember that we are tradesman and that this is a skill and not a ‘talent’. Study from life, get references whenever possible, and ‘no’ from an art director means ‘show me more later’.

And finally, learn to love Ramen!

*****

Be sure to check out Eric’s tutorial on how to draw a creepy monster that looks like it’s going to eat your face off; not only does it have instructions, it has great tips for illustrating in general. If you dig his art, be sure to visit his website for more art and updates. Eric is also on Google Plus so add him to art and rpg circles for more updates. Hope you enjoyed Epic Level Artistry this time around! Happy Halloween!

Epic Level Artistry: Ryan Rhodes

It’s the middle of the month and time for another installment of Epic Level Artistry! This time we are stoked to have Ryan Rhodes, illustrator, graphic artist and RPG player. From science fiction, fantasy, western and/or steampunk, Ryan is able to lend his style to many different genres and infuses life and humor in many of his images.  Check it out!

Merman by Ryan Rhodes

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs.
I joined the Star Wars Artists’ Guild in 2002, shortly after it got its first official site. I was a community member, then, not an artist. I think I was only 15. I was drawing, but I was pretty shit at it. I wanted more than anything to be a guild member and draw people’s characters, but my application was denied twice. I had some personal correspondence with Daniel Falconer (who did concept art for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films), and he gave me a lot of advice. I tried emulating what I saw him and some other artists like Khairul Hisham doing at the time, started experimenting with ink, and built a really novice portfolio. That was enough to get me in the guild. Since then, I’ve done a ton of Star Wars RPG art. I’ve done a lot for free, through the site, and a fair share of private commissions. At some point I branched from Star Wars and started playing other games like D&D, and I started doing art for those games, too. About two years ago I started getting regular paid work for small-time RPG content publishers.

What’s your favourite system to play? Is there a setting/system you love making art for in particular? What is it about this world/system that inspires you?
My favorite system is actually Marvel’s diceless RPG system. I’m not sure how many people play that or even remember it, but I thought it was brilliant. I really liked the Cortex system for Serenity RPG, and Decipher’s LOTR. But of course I play a lot of Star Wars. And recently, a lot of Pathfinder. That’s my favorite at the moment.

Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?
I’ve spent a lot more time GMing than playing. I didn’t necessarily choose to, but it’s worked out that way. And once people decide you’re good at something, you’re generally stuck with it. I love GMing, but I love having a break once in a while to play, too. I think when I’m playing (rather than GMing) I do a lot more art for my home game. I think being a player frees me up to be creative in other areas. Being a GM can be pretty taxing.

Do you find yourself more drawn to drawing locations or people? Do you have them fleshed out before you bring pencil to paper (to use an old idiom) or do the ideas and the image kind of grow side by side?
I almost exclusively draw characters. I’ve been playing around with more scenes and landscapes lately, integrating these things together. But characters are definitely my milieu. For me, the concept and the image definitely grow together on the paper. It’s very rare that I get a really clear mental image of what I’m going to draw before I draw it, and it’s usually wrong.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
I’ve been doing digital illustration for several years now, which is the avenue I went down trying to find perfect ink lines. The computer gives me a level of control I really like. I can be a real perfectionist with my lines if I want. But I still love sketching on paper from time to time, mostly to unwind. Sometimes I really like that the real ink lines on paper are kind of messy and noisy and misbehave.

How much time would you say you spend in a week making art? How much time in a week would you say you spend gaming?
I think I spend at least six hours a week drawing. I tend to sit down and draw for about 2 to 4 hours at a time, and I almost always do a piece from start to finish in one sitting. I haven’t gamed much in the last few years. My friends and I have slowly been moving away for school and work, and it’s been hard to find time to get together. I gamed almost nonstop over the summer while my little brothers were staying at my house. All they wanted to do was play Pathfinder every day.

Cosmic Frog Jam by Ryan Rhodes

Are there any trends, either genre-wise or technique-wise that you’re seeing in RPG/game art that you’re enjoying now? Is there anything you want to see more of or things you don’t like?
One thing I notice about character art, especially in Pathfinder, is that the characters are totally laden with gear, which I find aesthetically shitty, and totally hilarious and appropriate from a gaming perspective. I still like the sketchy character portraits from D&D 3.5, and I think the character art from Decipher’s LOTR really hit on that style. I think it really works for fantasy, which is funny because I’ve been doing a lot of fantasy art lately, and my style is like the antithesis of that! I remember noticing some art in a style more or less similar to mine in some of the later Star Wars Saga Edition books. I think it really works for sci-fi.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
My first love was for R.K. Post, and I still really like his stuff. I think a major influence was Daniel Falconer, more than any other. I had been trying to emulate his pen and marker style for years. Grant Gould is also a major influence; I love his brush pen lines and digital colors. But I think I was also influenced by traditional artists like Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Privat Livemont, and others.

What tools do you use to make art? What tools/items do you need to game?
I draw with an Intuos tablet and Photoshop CS4. I also draw on paper at times with pigma microns and brush pen. I have a nice sepia set I really love.

What projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?
I did some work for a steampunk space western RPG called Westward, published by Wicked North, and contributed to a couple resources by VonSchlick including a superhero and a horror gallery. Lately I’ve been working for Purple Duck Games, doing fantasy art for various projects. Lots and lots of character and monster art. I’ve really been enjoying the work with Mark Gedak, at Purple Duck. I feel like he has a good handle on my abilities and gives me stuff I really enjoy.

Self Portrait by Ryan Rhodes

Are there any pieces you’re particularly proud of? A favourite character you managed to pin down or something really funny/touching/dramatic you captured?
I’m pretty proud of a character portrait I did for myself, of a character I played in a Pathfinder game two years ago. He was sort of my take on Merman, from Masters of the Universe. I have a few Star Wars pieces that I think are pretty killer, and a couple fantasy pieces that turned out way better than I anticipated.

What would be a dream job/commission?
A dream job for me would be to collaborate with someone really motivated and knowledgeable on a big project, like creating our own sci-fi RPG. I’d also love to work on a big illustration project, maybe like a storybook or something. That would be challenging, but worthwhile.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
I’m working on my MA in linguistics right now, so I do a lot of research and conduct experiments occasionally. I do a lot of reading, and I play a lot of board games with my girlfriend. She’s not into d20, so we’ve been trying to find a game system she and I can both enjoy.

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?
For people looking to hire artists, I think I’d say don’t over-specify your wants. You never know when an artist might surprise you with something you didn’t even realize you wanted. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else’s input on your vision. To artists, I would say try to be outgoing. This is my biggest hurdle. I’ve been lucky that other artists have opened up to me, because I don’t really put myself out there enough. I owe a lot to the artists that do!

Your ‘Context Free Comics’ are really funny. Are those posted anywhere or do you just do them as the mood strikes you?
I post them here: http://contextfreecomics.blogspot.com/. But I should warn you, I haven’t updated in 7 months. Maybe if my other work slows down, I’ll get back to the comics. I know my girlfriend has plenty of ideas!

Regarding your graphic design pieces, when you’re designing for an organization or an event, what do you take into consideration first? How do you decide on fonts/images? What comes first when you’re composing the design? How is it different from illustration?
All the graphic design work I’ve done has been pro bono, either for an organization I belong to, or as a favor for friends and family. Sometimes they have very specific wants, which can make the job a lot easier. Otherwise, I try to find the core message and use that to guide the aesthetic. Like everything else I do, this is a monkey-throwing-darts kind of process, where I try lots and lots of different angles until I find something that resonates. I never studied this stuff in school, so it’s a very intuitive process.

The first thing is always the imagery. I find the image I want to convey, and I fit everything else into that, hopefully in a way that flows well. In illustration, I have to think about how to highlight a character within the parameters of the medium, so I have to decide what they’re wearing, what they’re holding, how they’re poised, in a way that reveals something about them. In graphic design, there are similar principles, but applied to the arrangement of image and information.

Your bio says you’re a linguist. What languages do you speak/have you studied? Do you ever incorporate this into gaming?
Well, I’m not a polyglot, but I think every linguist knows something about a huge number of languages, even if we don’t speak them. Right now I’m working on a local language called Chukchansi (a Yokuts language of Central California). Their tribe recently donated a lot of money to our linguistics department for a language revitalization project.

As far as incorporating this into gaming, I think it has definitely aided our ability to make up alien languages on the spot. My friends and I have fun ad-libbing alien dialogue during our Star Wars games, and I think having studied so many languages, and having a general linguistic curiosity plays into that. I actually spent hours in front of the TV with a notepad during middle school trying to decipher the alien languages of Star Wars. I found out later that there’s nothing to decipher, and they’re all nonsense. I should have invested my time in Klingon…

Please drop a fresh beat for us.

Fresh Beet by Ryan Rhodes. HA!

 

So there you have it! If you dig what you see here you can find Ryan’s portfolio or check out his dA. Thanks to Ryan for taking the time out for answering our questions; happy gaming!

Epic Level Artistry: Devin Night

Welcome back to Epic Level Artistry, where we get to hear from the artists that illustrate the RPGs we know and love. For our second installment we have Devin Night, a designer, illustrator, teacher and family man out of the Midwest. In addition to designing crafts and weapons for your characters to drive and wield, he also creates overhead tokens, a really awesome tool GMs can bring to the gaming table or gaming screen. Devin was awesome enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his art and gaming career. Check it out!

Displacer Beast by Devin Night

How did you get into making overhead tokens? I learned about their existence through the Tabletop Forge Kickstarter and honestly, they’re very cool.

Thanks. I started making tokens shortly into using Fantasy Grounds. It came with a base set of letter tokens for marking character position on a map. Once I realized they were .png files I made some really simple orc tokens. They were crude but as I kept working on the tokens over the years the style has matured and the tokens look better.

Between producing such great work at a high volume and having a family, how do you manage to keep from going insane?
It would be hard to prove that I’m not. Creating is what keeps me sane, I love making stuff, any kind of stuff, from the tokens, to illustrations, game pieces and also shelves. There just isn’t enough shelving designed to hold board games, or art supplies or miniatures. Custom shelving is what I do whenever I need to make something with power tools. But the bottom line is that creating things keeps me feeling good about myself. Also I’d like to mention that my wife is very supportive and my girls are totally awesome.

Do you have time to illustrate your own characters for campaigns you’re in?
I will sometimes sketch things from my games, but I haven’t really had time to do that for the past couple years. I’ve been working on so many projects over the course of the past couple years that when I have downtime I think about doing more… but I usually just end up relaxing instead. Being creative all the time can be very draining. I used to illustrate everyone’s characters. Now I make tokens to represent them in game.

What’s your favorite Classico pasta sauce? (you don’t have to actually answer this one, I just saw the images in your portfolio and thought I’d ask)
I did a bunch of work for Classico right out of college making mock-up boards for a lot of their products and possible product ideas. It paid well and was a great experience, sadly I have ever only had one flavor, which I can’t remember.

What’s your favourite system to play? Is there a setting/system you love making art for in particular? What is it about this world/system that inspires you?
I have been playing DnD for 30 years. I have dabbled in other systems and own a ton of boardgames. Just recently I decided I needed a break from DnD and I have a really yearning for some sic-fi. So once I get the current batch of tokens done I plan on making a set of tokens that are space/sci-fi in nature. Throw in some robots and aliens and I may have a whole new line of tokens.

Old Temple by Devin Night

Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?
I actually prefer to DM. I love the story telling aspect and I think I love getting the players to work with me to advance the story. When I GM I’m ore likely to make the maps, handouts and tokens needed to make the game feel more cohesive.

Do you find yourself more drawn to drawing locations or people? Do you have them fleshed out before you bring pencil to paper (to use an old idiom) or do the ideas and the image kind of grow side by side?
I love locations, I could have easily been an architect if my math skills weren’t so horrible. Even though I do a lot of character drawings I feel like I need to improve a lot in that area. I don’t draw as many places as I would like to either. I think it’s just a matter of not having the time to get to all the things I want to do. I like places with history where the people changed the place and where the place changed the people. When I make maps I try think about how a natural environment becomes the home of a group of people, and then how that group of people would change the place to suit their needs.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
I work almost entirely digitally now. I used to hand draw everything then color it digitally. Now I do all my rough sketching on paper… I think it’s still the best way to conceptualize. However once I have a rough sketch I go right to re-drawing and coloring on the computer.

How much time would you say you spend in a week making art? How much time in a week would you say you spend gaming?
I spend about 4-6 hours a day making art. I would spend about 10-12 if I didn’t have other things that I needed to do. Like eating, moving around, and taking care of the girls. Now that the girls are in school I’m getting more time to focus on work but I would still love to add about three more hours to the day. I just recently broke up with my gaming group, well more like took a break. We have played regularly every Tuesday night for over five years. It’s fun but right now my heart is just into creating art, and the 3-4 hours we were playing just seemed to keep me away from doing it. I still like to fit in a couple hours or an evening when I can to play board games with friends or family.

Aether Pistols by Devin NightAre there any trends, either genre-wise or technique-wise that you’re seeing in RPG/game art that you’re enjoying now? Is there anything you want to see more of or things you don’t like?
I’ve always been a closet Anime lover. I like very stylized and clean art. But there is just amazing art everywhere you look and on any given day I’ll see something that just makes me want to try and push my own work that much further. There isn’t much I don’t like except maybe bad art 🙂 that includes some of my own past work.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
The list of great artists worth trying to emulate would be a long one. It would also change depending on what project I wanted to work on. I really like Wayne Reynolds and Steve Prescott as far as illustrators go. Full disclosure, Steve and I are pretty good friends who graduated from CCAD together with several other talented people. It was freshman year that I decided to go into design as a direct result of seeing how good Steve was. I figured if I couldn’t compete with him and some of the other guys I would get more computer classes in. Back then Computer classes were reserved for Design majors and getting to use them was easier in the Design track. I have several pieces of Steve’s art hanging up around me and it keeps me pushing to get better at what I do. Fortunately I found a niche making overhead token art that not too many people seem interested in doing.

 What tools do you use to make art? What tools/items do you need to game?
Mechanical pencil and paper to get started. Then a 27 inch iMac and Wacom Tablet running Photoshop and Illustrator to make the digital art. Sometimes I will open up Carrara to do quick 3d models of the things I need to draw, or given the time use 3d modeling to complete an illustration. Virtual gaming has really changed the way I play games, though I still buy tons of board games and recently invested a small amount into making my own dungeons using Hirst Arts Castle molds. Making three-dimensional representations of dungeons to play games on just seems so cool. Also the girls will really like it when it’s done.

Skeleton Mage by Devin NightWhat projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?
I don’t know for sure when this will be posted, but I’ll guess that my Kickstarter has finished and I’m making 200+ tokens of monsters. I’m also making 30 custom character tokens for the Tabletop Forge Kickstarter. I help Rite Publishing with their monthly ezine Pathways doing the layout for the covers. I’m working on maps for the En Publishing Zeitgist campaign and did 12 ship maps for the Naval Warfare Kickstarter. I work a lot with small publishers and indie game developers as well. I just got asked to help with a very cool project, but it’s in the early stages and I can’t talk about it yet.

Are there any pieces you’re particularly proud of? A favourite character you managed to pin down or something really funny/touching/dramatic you captured?
Usually the last piece of work I managed to finish. Like most artists I’m pretty critical of my own work so I’m never really satisfied with things when I look back on them. Most of the work that gets posted to my blog makes me happy at the time I put it up there.

What would be a dream job/commission?
I’ve always wanted to run a hobby shop, one with really big tables for open play and lots of sunlight. I’d also really enjoy working for most major board game companies like Fantasy Flight, my job description would have to include walking around and dipping my fingers into every game and every aspect of those games. From rules, to art, layout, game design and mini visualization. I wouldn’t be happy with just dealing with one tiny aspect of any part.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
If I’m not making art or gaming I’m thinking about it. Sometimes when i have no choice about working I will visualize myself working through a project and make a step by step outline of how to approach a project. When I do get back into the chair the majority of the work is done, I just then need to perform the action of doing it. This summer I spent a lot of time running around with the girls, swimming, biking, and a little camping.

Dragonkin Weapons by Devin NightDo you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?
Look around, there are a ton of great artists, and they are easier than ever to track down and work with. I have worked with more people that I have never met than people who I have ever spent time with. Hang out forums where they post their work. You can get a good picture of an artist by their posted work and how they handle themselves publicly. If you are an artist trying to get exposure.. do your work, do a lot of it, share it with others. Don’t expect to make a ton of money early on, but don’t give it away either. Art is job and even if it is fun, it’s still work. Once you get a job do your best to fulfill the needs of the client in a timely manner and keep communications open.

 

If you’re interested in seeing more of Devin’s tokens and art you can check out Devinnight’s Token Blog and his portfolio at Immortal Nights. With so many great projects he’s working on, I’m so glad he took the time out to talk to us; hope you enjoyed reading about his experiences and seeing the great art he’s bringing to the RPG world!

 

Are you an artist interested in being interviewed for Epic Level Artistry? Send an email to trisj at backthatelfup dot com with a bit about yourself and a link to your portfolio. We’ve got a few slots left for this year and will be starting up again in 2013. Happy drawing!

Epic Level Artistry: Amy Clare Learmonth

Welcome to Epic Level Artistry, where we showcase the talent and inspirations of artist who play RPGs, make art for RPGs and make art inspired by RPGs. Our very first artist is Amy Clare Learmonth aka Amika Sterling, an illustrator, gamer and student who resides in our neighbor to the north. I first came across Amika’s work through Twitter and was blown away by her cityscapes and figures, both cyberpunk and fantasy. Amika has a distinctive style she can adapt to many genres of work and uses a color palette that sets her work apart from many other artists (though I’ve seen some work she’s done in black and white and wow. Also amazing). She is also an avid player of video games, with her most recent foray being Fallout: New Vegas which she is kind of obsessed with despite having/because she beat it twice. Luckily, I got a hold of her before she delved into her game.

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs.
My name is Amy Clare, I’m currently in my second year of art university as an illustrator and I go by Amika when I’m working. I’ve been drawing pretty much since I was a toddler and when I turned eleven I started teaching myself to draw digitally using a crappy mouse and MS Paint. At thirteen I got my first tablet and a copy of Photoshop Elements for Christmas and I basically spent all my free time between DeviantArt, roleplaying on IRC, and drawing. I’ve always been into video games as well, and my first experience with RPGs were the video game variety. My gaming habit has hugely influenced my work.

 What’s your favourite system to play? Is there a setting/system you love making art for in particular? What is it about this world/system that inspires you?
I’m pretty flexible on settings; I’ll play anything and enjoy it. I tend to gravitate towards colourful science fiction settings (I got bored with dark sci fi when I realized its core audience was teenagers pretending they know how adult worlds function; when everyone’s playing The Darkest / The Most Coy character it’s pretty boring). I get inspiration for drawings from the games I play once in awhile, but it’s the story and characters that inspire the art and not the setting or system.
red caps

 
Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?
I enjoy both roles; I always have a ton of fun running campaigns for my friends, and I pride myself on my ability to both create really engaging worlds and fit them around the players (rather than making them fit themselves to my setting). Other times I just really like making a character and experience someone else’s setting. I don’t think my preferences affect my art at all.

Do you find yourself more drawn to drawing locations or people? Do you have them fleshed out before you bring pencil to paper (to use an old idiom) or do the ideas and the image kind of grow side by side?
Lately I’ve been trying not to favour one or the other between locations or people. For fun I like to draw single characters but as I get more and more into illustration I’m trying to do both at the same time. I’ll usually have an vague idea inspired by something before I decide to draw, but sometimes I’ll find it changing if I come up with a better idea during the process. I try not to tie myself too rigidly to a single process when I’m not doing a series so as not to pigeonhole myself.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
The medium always depends on what I’m trying to portray. Usually that means I end up doing lineart in pencil and pen and then colouring digitally, but I also work with acrylic paint, coloured pencils, charcoal, chalk, quill and ink, and watercolours.

ocean queen

How much time would you say you spend in a week making art? How much time in a week would you say you spend gaming? 
It really depends on my mood, schedule, and whether or not I’m in school. I always spend a greater proportion of my time drawing than gaming, though, because it’s my vocation. Playing games is fun, but it’s still just a hobby.

Are there any trends, either genre-wise or technique-wise that you’re seeing in RPG/game art that you’re enjoying now? Is there anything you want to see more of or things you don’t like?
Not that I can think of. As I’m often writing about on my tumblr and twitter accounts, I’d always like to see more relatable female characters that are made for women to project onto rather than for male players to ogle.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
Off the top of my head, Jamie Hewlett, Lois van Baarle, Frank Stockton, Imperial Boy, Rose Besch, Patricio Betteo, Ein Lee. There’s probably more, but that’s a good start.

What projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?
My first ~official paid project~ was doing illustrations for the Valley of Ten Crescents series! Since then I’ve been commissioned to do a handful of illustrations for print media as well as designs and assets for the Nak the Crunkodile flash game. At the moment I’m casually consulting with an indie studio’s art department while they put together their first game, but I’m trying to keep my schedule more or less clear and relaxed until school starts. I do a pretty good impression of a terrible slacker student, but I actually take it pretty seriously.

snow castle v2

Are there any pieces you’re particularly proud of? A favourite character you managed to pin down or something really funny/touching/dramatic you captured? 
I’m in a really volatile and developmental stage in my art career, so usually my favourite piece happens to be whatever I did last. Which is this: http://amika-sterling.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d5c7s07

What would be a dream job/commission?
I’d really like to collaborate on an illustration project with any of the artists I admire, even just on an art trade or something like that. This sounds silly, but I also think it’d be really cool if I were allowed to design clothing items for Dirty Lynx on Second Life.

cityscapes

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there? 
Let artists do their jobs. I’ve had to fire a total of four clients because they had super specific images in mind and I could tell by first or second contact that they weren’t hiring me to do an illustration, they were hiring me to read their minds and execute the image they had in their head. I won’t go through an author’s book/article/whatever and tell them how they should rewrite it; they should show the same courtesy with my illustrations.

To artists trying to get their work out there, don’t be shy about contacting people you admire and being proactive about networking. Obviously don’t be annoying and don’t grill them, but most artists will be totally stoked that you’re interested in what they do with their life. Don’t be shy about submitting to magazines or publications as well, because the worst that could possibly happen is you don’t get published and everything carries on as normal, and you never know if you’re publishable until you try.

How important do you think it is for artists to be present on social media?
It can help you get established, for sure — all the paid work I’ve done so far, barring gallery shows, has been commissioned through the internet because of my social media presence. At the moment, I’m sure it would still be just as easy to get an agent or contact newspapers and magazines and get established that way but over the next several years as more and more of our media moves to digital format it’ll be that much more important for artists to be present on social media. It’s already expected that artists will have their own websites; that’s only a step away from getting a Twitter or a Tumblr or something.

When can I play Nak-Nak? Seriously.
You can play it right now! My favourite site to use for flash games is probably Kongregate.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Amika’s work, reading  her thoughts on video games and art or commissioning her you can check out her deviantArt page, her tumblr or follow her on Twitter at @amikasterling.
Are you an artist interested in being interviewed for Epic Level Artistry? If so, drop us a line at trisj at backthatelfup dot com for more info!

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